Hulk Mad! Need Reboot! (The Incredible Hulk, 2008)
So, Ang Lee’s Hulk just did not quite work. With no sequel on the horizon, the rights reverted back to Marvel, allowing them to add this film to their budding extravaganza. Gone were the stars of the original and director Ang Lee. In was director Louis Leterrier and star Ed Norton. A part of me was disappointed we lost Bana and Sam Elliot…but it is hard to complain about actors like Norton and William Hurt.
The film starts out with Bruce Banner on the run. The credits hint at an experiment gone wrong, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) getting hospitalized and General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) both threatening Banner and looking pretty heartbroken over his daughter’s condition. (there is a nice nod to the television show in this sequence)
Banner is now hiding in Rio De Janeiro, working at a cola bottling plant. He is trying to learn different techniques to avoid overstimulating his system and becoming the Hulk. He is corresponding with someone code-named Mr. Blue (who is stateside) and going by Mr. Green. They connect via encrypted internet and mail. He is also trying to learn the language watching Sesame Street.
A discovery of gamma poisoning via cola from Rio De Janeiro gets the attention of Thunderbolt Ross. The General assembles a team that includes Russian born elite soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), on loan from Britain. They set out for Rio De Janeiro based on tracing the soft drink shipment.
Banner gets away and hurries back to the states to get information that Mr. Blue needs.
He goes to the university, where he sees Betty…and her new boyfriend, psychiatrist Leonard Samson (Modern Family’s Ty Burrell). Slipping away he pretends to be delivering a pizza. In a fun cameo, Security guard Lou Ferrigno (who was a security gurd in Ang Lees film and provides the voice of the Hulk in this film) bribing his way into a computer lab where he tries to hack into the system…but he find all the files are gone.
General Ross convinces Blonsky to undergo treatment… they inject him with an experimental super-soldier drug that was an attempt to replicate a serum that was lost. It enhances Emil’s speed, strength and senses.
It turns out to not be enough, as the Hulk swats him like a fly. Later, General Ross goes to check on Blonsky, only to discover he is healing rapidly.
While that is going on, Betty and Bruce are on the run, trying to reach Mr. Blue. They do find him and he is thrilled to meet Bruce. Mr Blue is revealed to be scientist Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson) and he has been busy replicating Bruce’s blood for tests. They attempt a test to cure Bruce. They appear to cure Bruce, but the military breaks in, Sterns is infected with some of Bruce’s blood after being coerced to inject Blonsky with Banner’s blood.
This leads to a big time smack down between the Hulk and Blonsky.
This film gets a lot right that the previous version got wrong. First and foremost…something to smash. Inner turmoil is important to the subtext of the Hulk…but he still needs to break stuff. The battles are pretty fun, especially the final battle. The film also ties into the comics really well, managing to include many characters in ways that never feel forced. The introduction of Leonard Samson seems like it could have been a nice setup, as the sequence with Sterns, who was clearly being set up for the next film’s villain. In the comics, Sterns becomes the megalomaniac and possessor of a giant brain and forehead known as the Leader. Sampson was infected with low level gamma radiation and became strong (and his hair turned green), but he retained his intelligence.
Ed Norton does a nice job, and apparently rewrote much of the script. It appears to have served him well. William Hurt is a different approach than Elliot…but he does a terrific job. While there was no Hulk sequel, He did return in the Avengers (albeit with a new actor) which was wise. Live Tyler is stuck as the love interest, and she does a fine job… Though while they indicate she is a scientist…we see no real evidence of it. Tim Roth is great as Blonsky.
There are some confusing things… The film plays loose with the cause of the changes…both anger and simple excitement are credited. It gets a little to much slow motion heavy in the action scenes. But it is a lot of fun with a solid cast. It also made for a decent building block for the Marvel Universe, especially the reference to the super soldier serum. The film made it’s other major tie to the Larger Marvel Cinematic Universe is an appearance by another major player in the post credits scene.